Starkville couple prepares for life as missionaries

Published 6:55 am Sunday, June 10, 2018

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — American Reformed Baptist theologian John Piper observed, “There are only three kinds of Christians when it comes to missions: zealous goers, zealous senders, and the disobedient.”

Brent and Mary Cameron Wilemon of Starkville are zealous goers whose life goal is to live and work in Southeast Asia as missionaries.

The couple met while they were students at MSU, and even before she and Brent were married, the 30-year-old Mary Cameron knew if Brent were to be her future husband, he had to be on board for the life of a “zealous goer.”

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“I went to the Philippines in ‘08 and wow, that just shot me off. I came back saying, ‘This is my life now.’ After that trip it was settled for me, and I’d quiz Brent once in a while to see if he was interested,” she said.

The 32-year-old Brent Wilemon said it took some time, and a couple of career paths, for him to find his way to missions.

“I was a Marine from 2006 to 2012. I went to the Republic of Georgia and to Israel. After that I was a firefighter in Starkville for a couple of years,” he said.

Brent Wilemon said it was an encounter with a stranger in Starkville that helped him winnow out his calling.

“I was in a bad slump, getting drunk every night and being stupid. I fell down a flight of stairs one night and hurt my foot. This person came and asked if he could pray for me. I thought it was weird, but I said OK,” he said.

Brent explained that the stranger’s prayer for him had a miraculous effect, and effectively set his life on a different path.

“My life has never been the same after that, and ever since that time, I’ve wanted to help people get to know Jesus. Jesus said ‘Give freely if you have freely received.’ I want to let people meet Jesus and know him, whatever that may look like,” he said.

Now that the Wilemons are both focused on “zealous going,” they have begun laying the groundwork for their future in Southeast Asia. The couple and their 2-year-old daughter, Emmy, split their time between Starkville and Redding, California, where Brent is about to begin his second year of mission training at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.

Once their training is complete, the Wilemons will live and work somewhere in Southeast Asia. Mary Cameron explained that wherever they go, they want to be only “bringers of light.”

“We’re bringing light that people never knew existed,” she said. “When they see that light, a hunger rises up in them they never knew they had, and they never knew there was food for that hunger. Jesus is the bread of life and the light of the world, and we are representing Jesus.”

The Wilemons agree that some Christian missionary efforts in Southeast Asia have attempted to impose Western-style customs and practices, rather than respectfully communicating the gospel in culturally appropriate ways.

“We don’t want to be the white Americans who establish a church that depends on us and then crumbles when we leave. We don’t want to be part of that. Instead of bringing our systems and methods, we’re simply introducing them to the person of Jesus,” Brent said.

Mary Cameron agreed, adding, “We never want to impose anything on other people that isn’t of Jesus, and Jesus is love. When Jesus comes into a family or a community it will only transform that family or community for the better,” she said.

In 2013, the Wilemons traveled to Cambodia, and in April of this year, Brent took an exploratory trip to Tibet, where he said the customs, the food, and the altitude required a bit of getting used to.

“Our lowest elevation was 9,000 feet and our highest was 16,000. I climbed up a flight of stairs at 12,000 feet and I was exhausted,” he said. “I had green tea with yak butter, and for breakfast I had this barley and yak cheese mixture. You’d pour yak milk on it, wad it up and eat it. It was interesting.”

Brent said their travels and training have caused them to rethink many of their own ideas about missions.

“What’s been changing in my mindset is we’re not there to establish belief systems and doctrines,” he said. “We’re there to introduce people to the person of Jesus. He is the greatest iconoclast, and the only one who can reach people in the darkest places.”